Thursday Night Movie Club
Titles T through V

- thursday, 4/26/01
john boorman's "the tailor of panama" (pierce brosnan, geoffrey rush, jamie lee curtis, leonor varela, brendan gleeson, catherine mccormack, john polito, mark margolis, martin ferrero).  one character summed up this flick as "casablanca without heroes" which is a pretty good description of the plot.  it's also a very funny black comedy.  basically, a screw-up british spy gets sent on a crappy assignment to panama where he recruits a mild-mannered tailor to help him gather data on the rich and powerful.  pretty soon everyone is scamming everyone else.  it starts slow, but builds to some pretty good tension, and the ultimate payoff is in how all the schemes come together at the end.  lots of good sexual innuendo, great lines, and good acting.  geoffrey rush is an amazing actor, creating a very sympathetic and very real character in the tailor.  also: since it's a boorman film ("excalibur", "emerald forest", "deliverance"), you knew there had to be some lush foliage scenes, and there were.

- saturday, 10/16/04
DJ caruso's "taking lives" (angelina jolie, ethan hawke, kiefer sutherland, gena rowlands, and olivier martinez).  a very well made and engrossing psychological thriller with good characters and entertaining, but logical, plot twists.  a psychopath finds loners with interesting lives, kills them, and takes over their lives until he gets bored and craves something new.  angelina is the FBI profiler on his tail.  I've seen angelina in so many silly roles and bad movies lately, that I'd forgotten how good of an actor she really is. filmed in canada, and actually SET in canada, for a change! 

- thursday, 4/3/03
antoine fuqua's "tears of the sun" (bruce willis, monica bellucci, tom skerritt).  willis plays a commando sent into the african jungle to rescue an american doctor during a civil war, but goes soft-hearted and decides to help a bunch of refugees as well.  his superiors are not amused.  lots of good action and blowing shit up, and a fair amount of suspense, too.  I think willis is turning into lee marvin.

- thursday, 7/3/03
jonathan mostow's "terminator 3: rise of the machines" (arnold schwarzenegger, nick stahl, claire danes, kristanna loken, earl boen).  a quite good "guy movie", but not in the same league with T1 and T2, due to the lack of james cameron's magic touch with plotting, pacing, and dramatic tension.  but still very good, with violence, humor, and special effects beyond reproach.  in a way, it almost felt like a parody of a terminator movie, with some good funny bits at the expense of terminator clichés!  basically, it followed the further adventures of john connor and his rise to leadership of the rebellion, and the machines and how they came to dominate the earth.  kind of a chronicle of the unfolding of the inevitable events foretold in the first two flicks.  oh, and I especially liked the female terminator; she had a great cold stare, and I loved the way she would cock her head when deciding how to smack someone down.

- thursday, 3/30/06
jason reitman's "thank you for smoking" (aaron eckhart, j.k. simmons, maria bello, david koechner, william h. macy, robert duvall, cameron bright, and sam elliot).  GREAT GREAT GREAT film!!!  I haven't see a more funny, poignant, or enjoyable movie in a very long time.  It reminded me of a coen brothers film crossed with a david lynch film. that certainly doesn't make it a "must see" for most people, but if you like both of those styles, you just might love this one!  basically, it is the story of a lobbyist for the tobacco industry, and how me manages to spin the most impossible ideas into believability.  and how his shy son learns all of his tricks.  one interesting note on this film:  nobody smokes in it!  there was one scene where nick (the star) is told he must quit smoking. I was surprised, because I had never seen him smoke, and assumed that he was non-smoker (as part of the irony). he agrees to quit, and it is never mentioned again.  nobody else smokes either. although robert duvall is shown with a cigar in his hand (in his hospital bed!), he never puffs on it. maybe this is a hint that the movie really isn't about smoking at all, but about spin, and how it is an inherent part of our modern society.

- thursday, 9/3/98
peter and bobby farrelly's "there's something about mary" (ben stiller, cameron diaz, matt dillon, chris elliott, lee evans).  basically a screwball comedy, it had several really hilarious bits interspersed in a pleasant little love story, and some extremely disgusting concepts (of which i wholeheartedly approve) peppered throughout.  interesting music by johathon richman.

- friday, 6/25/99
taped off cable long ago, this has become an all-time favorite: gary fleder's "things to do in denver when you're dead" from 1995 (andy garcia, william forsythe, christopher lloyd, christopher walken, treat williams, jack warden, bill cobbs, bull nunn, gabrielle anwar, fairuza balk, steve buscemi).  great small-time-thug flick, with lots of traditions and lingo that you gradually figure out as you go, and a double entendre on the movie title. good quirky plot, concepts, and characters too.  sticks with you.

- sunday, 3/11/01
w.s van dyke's "the thin man" (william powell, myrna loy, maureen o'sullivan, cesar romero) from 1934.  you have to go out and rent this movie.  i'll admit, to a 21st century audience, it starts off sounding stilted and out of date, but, like a shakespeare play, after a few minutes you get into the rhythm of the dialogue and stop feeling alienated.  and then the audacious attitude takes over!  nick and nora charles, dilettante detectives and class-A smart-asses, booze and joke their way through a fairly interesting but ultimately inconsequential mystery.  their alcoholic attitude, endless wisecracks, and easy, self-deprecating love for each other, make the story a first class charmer. also: i love any movie that makes my own alcohol consumption seem minimal.  and these guys REALLY drink themselves into the history books! (interesting that it is based on a book by alcoholic-extraodinaire dashiell hammett!)   i can't wait to see the rest of the series.

- wednesday, 11/10/99
john mctiernen's "the thomas crown affair" (pierce brosnan, rene russo, denis leary). very well written and clever, if not particularly thrilling, caper/romance flick. nice and sumptuous visuals, from expensive office views to magnificent art to glider views to a carribean island. nice to see some sex in a movie for a change, too.

- thursday, 10/7/99
david o. russell's "three kings" (george clooney, mark wahlberg, ice cube, spike jonze, nora dunn).  excellent, creative, in-your-face hyperkinetic and ironic styling and updated settings added to standard war movie formula; reminded me a lot of both "the good the bad and the ugly" and "natural born killers".  clooney definitely has a presence that you can't ignore, and the other characters balanced him nicely.  a rare split decision by larry and me, with larry being bored by most of it!

- thursday, 3/1/01
demian lichtenstein's "3000 miles to graceland" (kevin costner, kurt russell, christian slater, courteney cox, howie long, jon lovitz, ice-t, david arquette, kevin pollak, thomas haden church).  this could have been a quite good movie.  you couldn't ask for more gunfire, explosions, double crosses, elvises, car chases, or sleazy characters.  (i'll never forget ice-t hanging upside down, flying across the room on a wire, spinning and spewing bullets everywhere from his twin machine guns!)  and the directing was kinetic and stylish and hip and effective.  but, kevin costner just does not cut it as a tough guy!  he's about as menacing as mr. rogers.  everyone else was perfect, especially kurt russell, who has enough testosterone for any five men.  basic plot:  five ex-cons hold up a vegas casino and haul off a fortune, and everything goes great.  then afterwards, everything falls apart, mostly because costner's character is supposed to be a psychopath.  one caveat: don't leave before the end credits; kurt's elvis impersonation is worth the price of admission!

- sunday, 9/22/96
ron shelton's "tin cup" (kevin costner, don johnson, cheech marin, rene russo) - decent ron shelton sports-are-allegory-for-life flick, but he's done much better!!

- friday, 1/2/98
james cameron's "titanic" (leonardo decaprio, kate winslet, billy zane, francis fisher, kathy bates, bill paxton, david warner, bernard fox).  a great, sprawling, wild ride of emotions that runs the gamut from sadness to exhilaration.  half star-crossed love story, half indiana jones cliff-hangers, all combined in a multi-layered tapestry of concurrent stories on many levels.

- thursday, 6/21/01
simon west's "tomb raider" - see "lara croft: tomb raider" on the K through M page.

- saturday, 7/3/04
watched on tv, george p. cosmatos' "tombstone" from 1993 (kurt russell, val kilmer, sam elliott, bill paxton, powers boothe, michael biehn, stephen lang, thomas haden church, dana delany, harry carey jr., billy zane, terry o'quinn, pedro armendariz jr., billy bob thornton, charlton heston, and robert mitchum as the narrator).  I remember loving this movie in the theaters when it came out, but never got a chance to see it again until now.  man, is it fabulous!  basically, I will see ANY movie with kurt russell in it.  and I'll see any movie with val kilmer in it, or sam elliott, or bill paxton.  put them all together, plus all those other luminaries, and oh, man!  great characters, acting, writing, lines, and action. I can't say enough about how fun this movie is.  good guys vs. bad guys, gun fights, honor, friendship, horses, dust, and guns guns guns.  you gotta love it!  not for everyone, perhaps, but this is Thursday Night Movie-making at its finest.  if you still need to hear about the plot: legendary lawman wyatt earp and his brothers try to retire, but get sucked back into the business of defending innocents from the bad guys.  say no more!

- monday, 12/15/97
"tomorrow never dies", the new james bond film (second with pierce brosnan) (pierce, teri hatcher, michelle yeoh, jonathon pryce (carver), goetz otto (stamper), ricky jay (gupta), desmond llewelyn, judi dench, joe don baker (wade), samantha bond (moneypenny), vincent schiavelli (dr. kaufman)).  directed by roger spottiswoode.  good action, minimal silliness, some creative chase ideas.  pedestrian plot about a media mogul out to conquer the world, but good opportunities for bond to be gritty and deadly.  not enough sex, no smoking, nice shot of bond doing smirnoff shots, with the label barely showing.

- thursday, 1/22/04
joseph kahn's "torque" (martin henderson, ice cube, jay hernandez, jaime pressly, monet mazur).  basically a high-energy, low-intellect b-flick about very fast motorcycles and the boys and girls that love them.  a fun waste of time with some better than expected special effects.

- thursday, 3/22/01
steven soderbergh's "traffic" (michael douglas, don cheadle, benicio del toro, luis guzman, dennis quaid, catherine zeta-jones, steven bauer, miguel ferrer, benjamin bratt, albert finney, james (mr. streisand) brolin, amy irving, peter riegert)  long, documentary-style look at intertwining stories up and down the food chain of the illegal drug industry in north america, involving politicians, yuppie users, sellers, producers, importers, etc.  long but fairly gripping and very well made, but nothing that really stays with you.  it kind of reminded me of an extra-long episode of "law and order".  i did like the way they used sepia toning in the mexican scenes, and a few other nice stylistic touches to give you a sense of time and place as they ping-ponged around the continent.  i also like how they didn't beat you over the head with any conclusions, but just seemed to say "this is a mess; what do YOU think about it?"

- thursday, 10/17/02
corey yuen's "the transporter" (jason statham, qi shu, matt schulze, buncha frenchmen; writing and production by luc besson and others).  pretty good, fast paced, and interesting action flick about a retired brit soldier living in france who makes his living by "transporting" anything (contraband, hostages, etc.) for a fee, no questions asked.  and the merry mixups that occur when he breaks his own self-imposed "rules" (nothing good, you can bet!).  the martial arts action was very jackie-chan inspired, but I suspect some of it was even jackie-chan stolen!  (one scene was obviously swiped right out of indiana jones, which makes we wonder about the originality of the rest)  but still, very well executed and fun to watch.  reminded me of both "ronin" (but funnier) and "the bourne identity" (but more interesting).

- thursday, 9/15/05
louis leterrier's "transporter 2" (jason statham, alessandro gasman, amber valletta, kate nauta, keith david, matthew modine).  good mindless fun.  I still have the sneaking suspicion that all the martial arts moves were swiped from other movies, but it was still fun.  the "transporter" dude (a shadowy quasi-legal stud who drives a car for a living and delivers stuff to folks who'd rather remain anonymous) has to save a kidnapped brat, and ends up performing all sorts of semi-believable acts to save the day.  jason statham still seems like the unholy love-child of James Bond and Jackie Chan as he performs unbelievable, but still amusing, acts of acrobatic hilarity.  if you can suspend your disbelief to a HUGE degree, you might enjoy this flick like I did.

- thursday, 12/12/96
steve buscemi's "trees lounge" (steve buscemi, a bunch of other buscemis, anthony lapaglia, daniel baldwin, debbie mazar, carol kane, sam l. jackson).  part grim, part amusing, study of losers who hang around a dive bar.  not a great flick, but some interesting characters and situations, and lots of good acting.

- friday, 5/19/06
rented: kevin reynolds's "tristan + isolde" (james franco, sophia myles, and rufus sewell).  this is the perfect date movie: romance and costumes for her, sword fighting and explosions for him.  it was actually pretty good, too, although I doubt that the history was very accurate (it's based on a wagner opera).  the fractioned petty kingdoms of britain try to put off their differences and ally themselves to fight off their irish oppressors.  young tristan wins the hand of the irish king's daughter (sight unseen) for his master, not knowing that she is his own secret love!  the love triangle that ensues causes no end of trouble.  decent acting, decent action, great scenery, and tons of cheesy dialogue.  reminded me a lot of one of my all-time favorite movies, "the vikings."  I didn't expect much going in, and I had a good time.

- thursday, 5/27/04
wolfgang petersen's "troy" (bradd pitt, eric bana, orlando bloom, brian cox, brendan gleeson, sean bean, peter o'toole, saffron burrows, diane kruger, julian glover, julie christie, and nigel terry).  halfway decent retelling of "the illiad" as the combined greek armies storm troy, ostensibly to retrieve Helen the queen, but actually just wanting to extend their power in the region.  this would have been much better but for two problems: 1) I couldn't help but compare it to Lord of the Rings (against which it pales), and 2) brad pitt, who I love in many roles, just is so NOT a greek warrior!  however, brendan gleeson and brian cox totally ruled, and stole the entire film.  other than that, some decent battles but nothing too spectacular.  and not nearly enough blood or sex to justify an R rating!

- thursday, 10/10/02
kevin donovan's "the tuxedo" (jackie chan, jennifer love hewitt, debi mazar, peter stormare, jason isaacs, and james brown as himself).  terminally silly, but not unwatchable.  not nearly enough of the famous jackie chan type action, though.  I think jackie is figuring that he's not getting any younger, and had better start transitioning to a different, less physical style of movie making, hence this maxwell-smart-type spy spoof.  at least you get JLH to ogle.  oh yeah, the plot - jackie is a chauffer to a secret agent who has a high-tech tuxedo that gives him super powers.  when the agent is sidelined, our hero steps into his, ah, shoes, and cummerbund, and everything else.  you get the picture, I'm sure.

- wednesday, 3/27/96
terry gilliam's "12 monkeys" (bruce willis, madelyn stowe, brad pitt, christopher plummer), pretty good post-apocalyptic, time-travel, weirdo-director type movie.  brad pitt was amazing.

thursday, 8/21/03
danny boyle's "28 days later" (cillian murphy, naomie harris, brendan gleeson, megan burns, chistopher eccleston).  fascinating and stylish horror/zombie/post-apocalypse flick, with great POV and handheld camera work to suck you in.  reminded me a lot of "night of the living dead" and "blair witch project".  a virus is released on the world, turning the vast majority of people into bloodthirsty zombies; the rest must somehow cope.  but it isn't just grisly violence (although there is plenty of that!); there is also lots of philosophical musing on what makes life worth living in the first place.  and you get two -- TWO -- endings for the price of one, if you stay through the credits!  a happy ending before the credits roll, and then the real, gritty, tough-shit ending afterwards.  too cool for words.

- thursday, 1/23/03
spike lee's "25th hour" (edward norton, philip seymour hoffman, barry pepper, rosario dawson, anna paquin, brian cox).  the story of a convicted drug dealer spending his last day of freedom before beginning a seven-year prison sentence. no real plot, just a "slice-of-life" as he visits various friends and associates.  I think the overall theme is "regretting the things you've done in your life that you wish you could change, but you can't".  some funny, seinfeld-type dialog (but filthier!), and some nice directorial touches in the spike lee tradition, but nothing too memorable.  however, it was a total tour de force for norton; if you like his acting style, this movie will entertain you.

- thursday, 8/22/96
jan debont's "twister" (bill paxton, helen hunt, jamie gertz) - good effects, dumb plot, farfetched situations, but ultimately kinda fun.

- thursday, 10/3/96
"two days in the valley" (john herzfeld writer and director; starring james spader (great in a harry-palmer look), danny aiello, glenne headly, jeff daniels, eric stolz, terri hatcher, marsha mason, paul mazursky, louise fletcher, austin pendleton, charleez theiron, keith carradine, peter horton, and a guy who looked and talked like dr. bashir from deep space nine) - a pretty good "pulp fiction" knock-off with moments of inspiration and one great cat-fight, but basically kinda flat.

- saturday, 5/20/06
rented: DJ caruso's "two for the money" (al pacino, matthew mcconaughey, rene russo, armand assante, and jeremy piven).  a washed-up football player gets a second chance as a sports handicapper, and a manic, almost insanely-driven promoter takes him under his wing and shows him how to push it to the limit.  you get to see matthew mcc. flex his muscles, and pacino chew the scenery.  but in the end, not much is accomplished.

- thursday, 3/9/06
kurt wimmer's "ultraviolet" (milla jovovich, cameron bright, nick chinlund, and william "perfect storm" fichtner).  this was pretty bad, although there was lots of violence and blowing shit up. I also liked the "look" of the sets and people, as computer-generated landscapes blended with real-life ones. but, it was badly written, acted, and plotted, and made very little sense. basically, a virus had turned a large percentage of the world's population into "hemophages" (aka vampires), which made them super strong and fast. the rest of the world, especially an evil government overlord, wants them all dead. violet, the vampire heroine, rides a fast bike and swings a fast sword and has guns growing out of her hands. unless you like dissecting bad movies, skip it.  they should have stripped milla down to some skimpier outfits (like she had in "the fifth element") and gotten themselves an R rating, then at least there would have been some reason to see it.  by the by, cameron bright was the creepy little kid from "birth" and he was just as creepy in this one!!

- thursday, 1/26/06
len wiseman's "underworld: evolution" (kate beckinsale, scott speedman, and sir derek jacobi).  despite not having seen the first movie, I really enjoyed this one.  lots of great killings and blowing stuff up, of course, but also good scenery and imagery, great costumes, and a fairly intricate and interesting plot about the war between the vampires and lycans (werewolves), and alliances and betrayals and history between them.  also, another good "origin" story about why they exist in the first place.

- thursday, 10/8/98
"urban legend" (alicia witt, rebecca gayheart, robert englund, john neville, jared leto, and brad dourif - uncredited).  another "scream" type teen slasher flick, with pretty good mystery and characters, just the right amount of humor and sickness, and two cute leads.

- sunday, 10/5/97
oliver stone's "u-turn" (sean penn, nick nolte, jennifer lopez, powers booth, billy bob thornton, jon voight).  basic oliver stone treatment (handheld camera, quirky style), of basic story about guy stuck in a hell of a town full of lunatics and trying to get out.  good violence, but the moderate humor was all given away in the previews.  might have seemed original if i'd never seen red rock west or wild at heart.

- thursday, 3/23/06
james mcteigue's "v for vendetta" (hugo weaving, natalie portman, stephen rea, john hurt).  lots of fun!  although this flick has generated lots of political discussion in various circles, I didn't see any particularly strong political messages in the film. it is about a dude who was fucked by the government (in a futuristic england), and sees it as his duty to fuck them right back. he is an anarchist, a revolutionary, a stirrer of the pot, as it were.  I can relate!  he uses his subtlety, his verbal skills, and his physical fighting talents that were given to him by the very government experiments that doomed him.  lots to think about, and lots of good violence to enjoy on a simpler level.  you gotta love it.  and lots of stuff getting blown up real good, too!  hugo weaving does an excellent job of playing the anti-hero as both brilliant and insane, and john hurt is excellent at playing the sputtering, obsessive overlord.

- thursday, 2/22/01
we saw jamie blanks' "valentine" (denise richards, david boreanaz).  except for getting to see denise richards in a hot tub, this movie doesn't have much going for it.  but then again, you do get to see denise richards in a hot tub!  basically, junior high geek comes back years later to wreak revenge on the beautiful women who humiliated him, but nobody knows what he looks like anymore.  kind of a you-know-who-dunnit-but-don't-know-which-one-he-is-now thing.  fans of "murder she wrote" will have no trouble figuring out who the killer is.  denise's acting gets worse all the time, but she's still.... well, denise richards!  the killings are pretty lame, but the opening sequence pretty much disproves the lie that "the worst she can say is 'no'".  best line: "he's no angel".

- thursday, 11/5/98
"john carpenter's vampires" (jimmy woods, daniel baldwin, sheryl lee, thomas ian griffith, tim guinee, maximilian schell, gregory sierra).  modern, updated, catholics-and-mercenaries type vampire flick; good gore, makeup, characters, and concepts, and great steely blues soundtrack by carpenter, but no real action or interest or momentum.  actually kinda disappointing.

- friday, 5/14/04
stephen sommers' "van helsing" (hugh jackman, kate beckinsale, richard roxburgh, david "faramir" wenham, kevin j. o'connor, and robbie coltrane).  lots of action, lots of effects, lots of fun, and lots of references to old movies.  if you love stuff like that, this is the movie for you.  if you like a clear, concise plot with no loose ends, well then maybe it isn't!  I liked the clearly drawn characters, the joyful CGI, the great smarmy dracula (with those bela-lugosi-esque fingers!), the sexy lady vampires, the creepy but funny offspring, the undertaker, the eerie gothic sets, and the subtle james bond references as well.  the plot?  basically, van helsing, the character created by bram stoker as an aged vampire hunter in "dracula", is a young indiana-jones type adventurer here, fighting all manor of victorian monsters (wolfmen, frankenstein's monster, mr. hyde, etc.) in service to the vatican.

- friday, 2/4/05
rented on DVD - m. night shyamalan's "the village" (joaquin phoenix, bryce dallas howard, adrien brody, william hurt, sigourney weaver, and brendan gleeson).  another brilliant and thoughtful flick from the pennsylvania punjab.  if you believed the previews of coming attractions, you would probably expect this to be a horror movie, and would go home disappointed.  but if you go in with no preconceived notions, you will find yourself watching a deep, multi-layered, taut psychological drama about how we are all controlled by the demons inside of us as well as those outside of us, and the paranoia and manipulation that result.  it is all played to the cadence of shyamalan's stilted, stylized dialogue, which the actors deliver with perfection.  basically, a brooding young man and a gutsy blind chick challenge the conventions of an isolated village, whose lives and choices are shaped by the unseen monsters that surround them... or do they?  I loved it.

Date night? I don't THINK so!
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